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Texas A&M University Psychology Students Improve Aggieland’s Work Environments

Psychology students in the MSIOP program offer free service to local organizations to help them stay ahead of the competition typical in today’s fast-moving job market.

By Rachel Knight ‘18

Student groups, like the ones photographed here, help improve local businesses with their pro-bono consulting projects.

Psychology masters students with a concentration in industrial/organizational psychology are creating better work environments in Aggieland one service learning project at a time. 

Local businesses and nonprofit organizations receive pro bono student consulting services designed to help them stay ahead of the competition in today’s fast-moving job market from students in the Master of Science in Psychological Sciences (Concentration in Industrial/Organizational Psychology) program, better known as MSIOP.

Bisi Atoba, director of the MSIOP program and  instructional assistant professor, defined I/O psychology as the scientific study of human behavior at work and the application of that science to workplace challenges facing individuals, teams, and organizations. 

“The role of I/O psychologists in organizations is to diagnose the root employee behavior or structural barrier that is causing whatever the business challenge is, say turnover or low productivity, and then pair the diagnosis with a practical, sustainable, and easily implemented recommendation or intervention,” Atoba explained. “This ultimately makes for an organization that is able to fully maximize the potential of its employees, which is needed for it to stay ahead of the competition typical in today’s fast-moving market.”

Graduates from the MSIOP program have gone on to work for contractors at NASA, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Texas Instruments, Amazon, Reynolds American Incorporated, and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas to name a few. Before graduates work for companies such as Amazon or organizations like NASA, they apply what they learn in class to a hands-on service learning experience in the Bryan-College Station community. Local organizations students have completed applied course projects for include Aggieland Outfitters, BVCASA, Brazos Valley Food Bank, MHMR of Brazos Valley, QuestSpecialty, Scotty’s House, City of Bryan, City of College Station, and TAMU Division of Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness.

Semester-long partnerships are formed with local businesses and organizations interested in improving their offices’ functionality with consulting provided by MSIOP students. Atoba identifies organizations that need help solving problems her students are trained to address. She then assigns teams of four to five students to each organization and faculty oversee each team’s project and progress. 

“As with any consultant, what our students do is propose ways forward,” Atoba shared. “For example, some of the City of College Station’s positions had a lot of turnover. So the students conducted a recruitment, selection, and retention analysis and proposed suggestions for how to recruit candidates who would stay and how to maintain them and keep them as employees in the future.”

While the City of College Station project required a recruitment, selection, and retention analysis, there is a wide range of projects students in MSIOP can complete for their hands-on learning experience. Aggieland businesses and organizations can receive free student consulting for developing employee training programs, developing employee engagement surveys, analyzing jobs to update job descriptions, revising performance appraisal forms, providing recommendations for effective recruitment and applicant selection, and leadership assessment and development. 

“Hands-on learning is irreplaceable and is an essential part of  the MSIOP experience,” Atoba said. “The program places an emphasis on the supervised learning experiences, because through them students can broaden their knowledge of the field and develop the technical and transferable skills needed for successful future careers in the I/O field such as insight into organizational problems and needs, troubleshooting, technical report writing, and client-facing skills.”

I/O psychologists ultimately help organizations fully maximize the potential of their employees. There is a need for I/O psychology anywhere people are employed, Atoba explained, which is why it’s important for the MSIOP program at Texas A&M University to teach both the science and practical application of I/O psychology.

“The program takes a balanced scientist-practitioner approach to education given that it exposes students to the science and applied practice of I/O psychology. This approach ensures that students are equipped with the knowledge and skill sets needed to address different issues in a variety of organizational settings. The MSIOP program is also quite rigorous and demanding and students can expect to be challenged through their education in the cohort-based program.”